The average Eataly — the Italian food emporium brought to the U.S. by Mario Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich — spans 50,000 square feet and encompasses sprawling selections of fresh fish, meat, pasta, produce, and groceries in addition to espresso bars, dessert counters, and multiple full-service restaurants. But a new offering that’s been rolled out at America’s first Eataly location, in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood, might give the company a new way to expand: Eataly Pronto, a grab-and-go concept that enables customers to get in and out faster and easier. According to an Eataly rep, if it’s successful in NYC, the concept could be rolled out at other U.S. Eataly locations.
Eataly Pronto is the brainchild of Jed Sullivan, Eataly’s director of QSR. “Around lunchtime we saw the lines in front of the panini and rotisserie counters snaking through the store,” Sullivan says, “and people at the end of the line started looking impatient.” Eataly Pronto, a menu of prepackaged lunch items, is intended to address that customer frustration.
Right now, Pronto exists as a standalone refrigerator inside Eataly that’s filled with grab-and-go salads and sandwiches, from caprese salad to a prime rib sandwich with cacio e pepe crema. The concept launched in May, but the offerings from chef Kristen Quito have recently expanded. The menu also includes a Genoa salami sandwich with artichokes, olives, mint, Calabrian chili, and Pecorino Romano and a roasted chicken, speck, radicchio, spinach, and Grana Padano salad. All items are priced between $6 and $13 with the average cost for a full lunch landing around $9; side salads, like one made with beets and ricotta salata, are priced around $6. As a point of comparison, Eataly Pronto’s prices are comparable to lunch options at other grab-and-go chains such as Pret a Manger, a chain out of the UK, and Texas-based Snap Kitchen.
Eataly’s made-to-order sandwich offerings, for which patrons must wait in line, currently include cold options like mortadella with fennel and orange marmelatta and hot paninis like soppressata and provolone and are priced similarly to the Pronto items. A hot prime rib sandwich ($14.80) is a draw at the rotisserie counter, where shoppers can also queue up for a roasted chicken or braised brisket meatballs to go. The Pronto menu items are not direct copies of the panini or rotisserie menu, “so the offerings don’t overlap,” Sullivan says.
“The salads and sandwiches, the way we pack them, are shelf-stable,” says Quito, who notes that a system is in place to track exactly how long each item has sat on the shelf. The caprese salad, which Sullivan promises is the freshest pre-packed mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad on the market, is restocked every three hours. “At Eataly every customer has to have the best experience,” Quinto says, “and freshness is a big part of that.”
The average Eataly location requires millions of dollars and years of development to roll out. But the concept is tremendously lucrative: Eataly’s Flatiron location famously brought in $70 million in its first year of operation, and sales have only increased from there. Sullivan, a graduate of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, is a veteran of foodservice behemoths like Aramark and Restaurant Associates that outfit corporate cafeterias and airport terminals, so he knows how to design a concept to scale.
If successful, it’s not hard to see how a concept like Eataly Pronto could eventually exist as its own standalone shop, at once meeting the needs of consumers looking for a quick lunch and helping to ease crowds at busy Eataly locations like the ones in Manhattan or downtown Chicago. At least for the moment, reps for Eataly insist that Pronto is a menu meant only to exist within Eataly.
For the past few months, Sullivan has been eyeing store sales to see if Pronto is stealing customers away from Eataly’s rotisserie or panini bars. “Some of those customers are grabbing sandwiches or salads from the Pronto area instead of waiting in line,” Sullivan says, “but overall [Pronto] has added to our bottom line.”